Area:One : Atlanta HiFi Buys Amphitheater

Moby, Nelly Furtado, OutKast, Paul Oakenfold and more play the first date of the touring Area:One festival...

Area:One – not a very appropriate name for a music festival. Because this Area:One – actually named after a legendary ’80s New York nightclub and tagged “One” in hopes they make a series of it – covers a whole lot of areas.

The Atlanta line-up – in order, Nelly Furtado, The Roots, Incubus, Outkast and Moby, with an air-conditioned Ford Focus-sponsored tent featuring Rinocerose along with DJs including Carl Cox, Paul Oakenfold and Derrick May – is the result of Moby‘s input and obvious insatiable desire to tour (two years and counting on this one, innit). It’s the first day of the 17 dates (with will later include acts such New Order and The Orb), and the only Southeastern show.

A little before 4 pm, with anticipation and humidity hanging heavy in the air, Nelly Furtado – the diminutive Portuguese Canadian with the big voice, bossa and breakbeats – takes to her first Area:One stage. A “Best New Artist” contender, Furtado has spent the day backstage with an MTV crew, introducing and interviewing her tour mates, so it’s time for her to introduce herself to the crowd. She does, playing material from her debut ‘Whoa Nelly!’ and daring the audience to get ur freak on.

A lot of kids aren’t in the audience yet; they’re getting their freak on Intel and Numark gear, playing with digital video and PCDJs. Too bad they’re missing the Philadelphia Roots crew. Earlier The Roots soundchecked Eric B And Rakim’s ‘Follow The Leader’, and you are still rocking with the best, as they drop the Hot Music, turning ‘You Got Me’ in to a reggae rocker sans Erykah Badu before backing up Tina Turner-looking Harlem songstress Kelis on cuts like ‘Caught Out There’.

In between sets walls softly echo with beats not quite caught and contained by the Ford Focus tent at the far end of the concourse as DJ Carl Cox pumps the crowd as hard as he pumps his fists in the air. The crowd response, while impressive, doesn’t compare however to what’s to come for Outkast .

Big Boi and Dre can’t feel like no outcasts at this hometown gig, as thousands on thousands of people leap to their feet as the duo charge the stage. Dre – in a platinum wig, blue high waist stovepipe pants with winding silver piping, brown tribal cuffs and mirrored shades – expertly controls the crowd. One has to wonder if the duo notes they’re looking in to an endless sea of white arms waving, but they’re both wearing dark sunglasses, so who gives a fuck. Outkast play Southern Cadillactic muzik and tell four albums-worth of story raps before they tell of ‘Ms. Jackson’ and drop the ‘B.O.B’ bomb on the heads. If you missed it, get to the back of the short bus.

Hundreds missed Outkast by choice, however, to catch DJ Paul Oakenfold‘s epic trance in the Ford Focus tent. Hundreds of those hundreds may have missed most of Oakie as well, because the line to get in the tent is 150 feet deep at most times.

Actually, the only real crowd gripes all night – other than a South African woman wishing out loud that people here dressed weirder like fairies and shit – are that there’s not enough space in the Ford Focus tent and there’s [I]too much[/I] good talent. You couldn’t catch all of Outkast [I]and[/I] Oakenfold (if you made it through the line, natch) if you tried.

Sadly, Detroit techno innovator Derrick May doesn’t have the same problem with lines because everyone save for a few hundred hurry over to the main stage for the last act of the night, Moby. Bouncing around in an for Outkast t-shirt, the little gymnast has taken his show from playing 200 seaters to 20,000, and the music has translated none the worse for wear. Truthfully, Moby‘s show, which has crossed Atlanta several times, sounds better than ever – adding a DJ and live string section – and looks better than imaginable.

Bank upon bank of lights explode to the rapid disco beat as the band tear through Moby‘s most memorable melodies. The only collaboration of the day happens when Nelly Furtado comes out to sing Gwen Stefani‘s part on ‘South Side’. The set ends in typical Moby fashion, with his shirtless figure standing high on his keyboard, arms outstretched, the sound system being pummeled by “the fastest song recorded,” ‘Thousand’. And through the strobes and shrill pounding the entire arena joins together in raising their arms and voices as one. Maybe Area:One is just the right name, after all.

Tony Ware